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Understanding Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Definitions

 

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is one of the most popular and widely used Bible study tools. Unfortunately, its layout for the sake of brevity and conciseness has caused confusion and led to erroneous conclusions about the definitions of words. Although when properly understood, the symbols used in the definitions give accurate information, most people do not understand how the definitions in Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Lexicon have been laid out.

 

The most common error when reading Strong’s definitions is mistaking the list of ways the original language word was translated in the KJV for the definition. The KJV translators often conflated many distinct words and concepts.

Here is an example definition of the Greek word αἰών (Strong’s G165) in Strong’s Lexicon.

αἰών
aiōn
ahee-ohn’
From the same as G104; properly an age; by extension perpetuity (also past); by implication the world; specifically (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):— age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end). Compare G5550.

First, the word is listed in the original language. Second, the transliteration of the word is listed. Third, the Erasmian pronunciation of the word. Erasmian pronunciation is still being taught in Greek courses today even though it is entirely contrived and not authentic. Randall Buth has researched a much more authentic koine Greek pronunciation system.

After the listing of the word in Greek, its transliteration, and Erasmian pronunciation, the etymology or derivation of the word is given.

After the etymology, the actual definition is given usually including the various senses of the word in different contexts and usages. The words in italics are the actual lexical definitions.

Finally, after the symbol “:—” appears, is the listing of the English words the KJV translators used when translating the original language word. These are not definitions as many have mistakenly led to believe. In the example of Strong’s G165, the KJV translators used: age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end).

The “Plan of the Book” in the printed of edition of Strong’s Concordance before the Dictionary of the Greek Testament states:

“By searching out these various renderings in the Main Concordance, to which this Dictionary is designed as a companion, and noting the passages to which the same number corresponding to that of any given Greek word is attached in the marginal column, the reader, whether acquainted with the original lanugage or not, will obtain a complete Greek Concordance also, expressed in the words of the Common English Version. This is an advantage which no other Concordance or Lexicon affords.”

Using the method as outlined in the printed edition would be rather cumbersome for searching out all the occurrences of a Greek or Hebrew word. With computerized Bible study tools it is much faster to simply search for the Strong’s number. On studybible.info one can very easily do this using the search feature. For example, one can search for all the occurrences of G165 in the KJV. Using the Advanced Search feature one can search for a word or a Strong’s number in the KJV and also see each verse in the Textus Receptus Greek. See an example of searching for Strong’s G165 in the KJV and showing the Textus Receptus in parallel.

With the Bible study tools now available anyone can easily find the original Greek or Hebrew word behind any English word used in the Bible as well as see all the occurrences of that word. Greek and Hebrew word study is now easily accessible without lugging around large heavy concordances and lexicons.

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7 Comments

  1. Brother Rock December 22, 2012

    Thank you so much for this explaination. I have been struggling for years to fully understand the structure of the Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionary to be sure I understood what the original Greek or Hebrew meant.

  2. George F. Kumpf July 16, 2013

    what do the “X” and the “+” signs mean in the definitions?

    • bible September 29, 2013 — Post Author

      The “x” “denotes a rendering in the A. V. that results from an idiom peculiar to the Gr.”
      The “+” “denotes a rendering in the A. V. of one or more Gr. Words in connection with the one under consideration.”

  3. gary September 16, 2013

    Baptists: Please throw your Greek lexicons in the trash!

    Why do Baptist always want to go to the Greek to understand the Bible? It is as if Baptists do not trust their English Bibles: “Sorry, hold on a minute, I need to check the original Greek before we can believe that God really loves the whole world as your English Bible seems to say in John 3:16…we can only know for sure if we understand and read ancient Greek.”

    When God promised to preserve his Word…did he really mean that he would only preserve it on 2,000 year old parchment and papyrus in ancient forms of Greek and Aramaic?? Did God really intend that the only people who could REALLY know what he had to say to mankind…would be ancient Greek-educated Baptist Churchmen?? Is the non-ancient-Greek- speaking layperson sitting in the pew supposed to just shut his English language Bible and sit at the feet of these Baptist Greek scholars to learn what God couldn’t explain himself in plain, simple ENGLISH??

    Do you REALLY believe that God intended for only Baptist, Greek-speaking Churchmen to understand the Gospel? Because that is really what Baptists are saying, because the Greek scholars of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Methodist Church think that Baptist Greek scholars are all WET on their positions that the Bible does not support infant baptism and that baptism MUST be by immersion!

    Is it really possible that ONLY Baptist Greek scholars truly understand ancient Greek, and that the rest of the world’s Greek scholars completely bungle the translation of the New Testament? How is that possible? It defies common sense. And if I hear another Baptist start talking about how the Greek genitive case proves that the Baptist position is correct, I swear I’m going to puke! Seriously, every time I get into a discussion about Biblical translation with a Baptist he starts in with the genitive case nonsense. If you want to understand the genitive case in a Greek document…I suggest you confer…not with a Baptist…but with a GREEK!

    Instead of all this ancient Greek nonsense, which Baptists seem to have a fixation on, I suggest that every Christian layperson do this:

    1. Obtain a copy of four different English language translations of the Bible. Read each one of these “problem passages”, as Baptists and evangelicals refer to them, in each of these English translations.
    2. God’s true meaning of the passage will be plainly understandable after comparing these four English translations.

    You do NOT need to read the ancient Greek text unless you want to delve into the study of ancient Greek sentence structure or some other nuance. God promised he would preserve his Word, and the English-speaking people of the world have had the Word of God IN ENGLISH since at least William Tyndale (1300″s??). Dear Baptists…PLEASE stop insisting on using the ancient texts to confuse Christian laypeople of God’s simple, plain message of the Gospel!

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
    an orthodox Lutheran blog

    • Ray December 30, 2020

      Gary,

      Not sure whether you’ll ever read this, but others will, and I suspect they’ll benefit more from my response than from your offered wisdom.
      Study of and reference to Original Languages is common practice in any discipline pertaining to translation, religious or secular. The main purpose is to attempt to best understand the originally intended meaning, and to thereby avoid error in the translation.
      Error in translating a Chinese tech manual produces a nuisance. Error in translation of Scripture can produce false doctrine, blasphemy and/or heresy.
      We are both native speakers of American English, I gather. Neither of us can likely sit down and fluently read and translate real-time Beowulf, e.g., although it was written in period English. Same applies to your suggestion that we simply consult a (native speaker of) Greek. Koinea Greek, as best I understand, is a dead language outside of academic study, much as Old English is a dead language.
      For all my “education”, I would never, nor can I, insist that *my* particular understanding of a passage of translated English Scripture is guaranteed correct. Take the word translated “Godhead”. Occurs three times in the English KJV NT. Do you, right now, without consulting any other reference than those three passages, know what that English term means? Whether all three of those occurrences mean the same thing? Whether “Godhead” is actually a correct translation? (Hint: three different Greek words translated ‘Godhead’, with subtle differences between them).
      How would or could you possibly know such information without checking the Greek sources?
      I’m sure you meant well and are yourself completely convinced of the legitimacy of your wisdom and advice, but I’ll make a safe prediction that you believe at least one theological error due to the vagaries of the English language, combined with your unwillingness to at least crack a Strong’s or Vine’s.
      The Holy Spirit can only correct error in a heart which is humble. Being unyieldingly self-convinced is not an indicator of humility.
      Selah (Hebrew word meaning “you’ll have to look up the meaning”…or not. Only one way to find out whether I’m telling you the truth.)

  4. Martyn February 18, 2018

    Dear Gary,

    Please do not put us back under law… the law of Gary. God in his grace has given us Greek and Hebrew and, yes, English. Let’s not cut ourselves of from his good gifts but rather embrace them all.

  5. Anna March 5, 2019

    The KJV rendered the text according to established doctrines in the 16th century and according to the ‘finger of God,’ Jesus and eleven of his disciples were ‘Galilean Gentiles.’ That alone presents a confusion not authored by God as he is not the author of confusion. The Hebrew word ‘goyim’ is the Greek word, ‘ethnos’ and Jacob was as much a ‘gentile’ as Esau was. Gen 25:23. God does not show partiality to race, gender or ancestral birthright. Both Jacob and Esau had the same parents and ancestry as did all of Noah’s sons. Since we all came from one man, Adam, we all share the same ancestry and birthrights. God did chose a NATION (goy/ethne) to serve as 3rd party mediators between god and mankind until the time of reconciliation came and then the NATIONS (goyim/ethnos) were reconciled to him and no mediators are needed thereafter. What ‘death’ did Adam die the day he ‘ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?’ He was cast out of his father’s PRESENCE. Thereafter it was necessary to have a 3rd party mediate between the father and sons. Jesus came and raised us up to that former position with our father and anyone, anytime, anywhere can commune ‘face to face’ with him without a mediator. We have been reconciled to him. No longer ‘dead’ in relationship to him.
    “No longer will they say, ‘Know the Lord, for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.’ Jer 31:34; Heb 8:11.

    Seek the truth and the you will find it and the truth will set you free from religious indoctrination. Matt 23:8-10; 2 Cor 3:17.

    Who is your ‘TEACHER?’ Have you elevated anyone above you? Jesus forbid that 2000 years ago. The ‘church’ was Bride of Christ made up of 144,000 firstfruits from the tribes of Israel. She was judged worthy to sit at the right hand of power, second in command, as a MEDIATOR, ( a QUEEN sits at the right hand of her KING) until the nation of Israel was judged as a Harlot who killed her prophets, Messiah, Saints, and fornicated with the Nations. She had synagogues in every city of the Roman Empire and inside she had shrines to the Torah. We are not the Bride of Christ as she proved she was a VIRGIN by being faithful and shedding her blood via martyrdom.

    ‘May his FACE shine upon you.’

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